about “il est bon a savoir”

“il est bon a savoir” (“it’s good to know”), a phrase commonly used by Joan of Arc, has been interpreted as both an affirmative response and as an ironic response suggesting the absurdity of questions posed to her during her trials. In the context of the three women exhibition, the literal meaning of the quote- knowledge is intellectually and spiritually enriching, beneficial and empowering -is also in play. It is literally good to know- to have access to information, to be able to gather knowledge, to be educated, to understand…

I chose to work with the excerpt from Carl Theodore Dreyer’s, The Passion of Joan of Arc, because the film is considered to be “the film that convinced the world that movies could be art.” I was intrigued by the fact that such a pivotal film happened to be based on an aspect of Joan of Arc’s story. It also seemed significant that Renée Falconetti’s portrayal of Joan of Arc in the film is considered to be one of the greatest performances ever recorded on film.

The segment of the film that I excerpted, slowed down to 10 percent time and projected larger than life, is one of the most poignant and yet understated sequences in the film. It depicts a moment that seemed to me to encapsulate Joan of Arc’s entire life. It captures the fragility of the human condition in an incredibly moving, poetic way. My video shows Joan of Arc during her last trial, reflecting on her childhood, remembering her mother teaching her the Lord’s Prayer, knowing that she is alone and never going home again. Dreyer drew the dialogue for the film directly from Joan’s trial transcripts so the historical accuracy of the film is quite amazing.

“il est bon a savoir” is a reflection on how women’s stories are framed in terms of history and in contemporary cultural narratives. I hoped the video would give viewers pause, slow them down enough for them to contemplate what it means to stand gracefully in one’s truth, as Joan of Arc did, at the age of 19, over 5 centuries ago.